The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Getting whole Wheat bread to rise?

Marz's picture

Getting whole Wheat bread to rise?

I have a  whole wheat + molasses & seeds bread recipe. It tastes great but I can never get it to rise. I'm trying to use a no-knead approach...which maybe wrong for this recipe. Here's a photo of the bread and here's the ingrediants.

Any suggestions on how I can get this yummy lump of bread to rise a bit more?


Zephyr Bread

Dry Ingredients

                  2 1/4 cups white flour

                  2 Tbsp gluten flour

                  1 cup whole wheat flour                                                     

                  1 tsp salt


                  1/3 cup unsalted sunflower seeds

                  1/4 cup flax seeds

                  1/4 rolled oats

                  3/4 cup diced dates, apricots,  or  cranberries

                   Mix dry ingredients thoroughly ceramic bowl

 Then add wet Ingredients

                  1/2 cup warm water  &   ½  tsp yeast –active dry                     

                   1 Tbsp oil

                  3 Tbsp. Molasses = 45 grams

                                    1+ cup Milk

Proceed in the no-knead style of baking. 18 hour rise, shape, 90 min rise, heat cast iron enamel pot & lid for 30 min...450°, bake for 50 min covered.

Floydm's picture

I'll be interested in seeing what others recommend.  It sounds like a really good bread, but I'd nuke with ten times that much yeast and bail on the no-knead approach.  

Maybe do an overnight sponge just some of the flour and a little bit of yeast, then combine that with the rest of the ingredients and a couple of teaspoons of yeast?  I think that is what I'd try, but, again, I'll be interested to see if anyone else has had luck with a low yeast, no-knead recipe with that much mass to it.

Breadbabe's picture

I agree with Floyd - pump up the yeast. When there's milk in a bread recipe I always scald it.  I seem to remember something about milk properties that unhibit yeast growth unless its scalded. Maybe others on the forum can speak to that.

PaddyL's picture

That's a whole lot of seed, oats, and fruit you're mixing in with only a little over 3 cups of flour.  That might possibly hinder a good rise on your bread.

Mebake's picture

Have you fermented this dough at room temperature for 18 hours? if so, it might be over fermented by then (dough would have lost vigor, and won't rise in the oven). Whole wheat containing doughs ferment faster than an all white dough, all things equal.

 Try adding another 1/2 tsp of dried yeast and once you mix it, put it in the refrigerator. within the next 24-48 hours you can bake it successfully, given that you remove it from the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for an hour or two to remove the chill. You can then start dividing, and shaping.

Lastly, bread with fruits, and nuts have to be kneaded well at the beginning before the nuts, fruits are added. dried fruits are better soaked, to prevent them robbing the dough of its moisture.


Mirko's picture

18 h rise at room temp. is tooooo long (120min with S&F after 60 min should be fine).


clazar123's picture

What was the purpose of the long,slow rise with the small yeast amount? Flavor? Ease of handling the schedule? KNowing that would also help with more pertinent suggestions being made.

I have made a fruited whole wheat nut bread every week for the last few years. The trick is to develop the supporting network very well either through kneading or through a S&F method. Hydration is also very important-WW and thirsty ingredients need more liquid. Using a preferment would improve the flavor of the bread a lot.

I think you need some ingredient tweaking and some technique tweaking to develop a delicious loaf.I haven't made your recipe but in my opinion, just looking at the ingredients:

1. Your bread will be chewy to the point of rubbery with that level of gluten forming ingredients. I would not add the 2 tbsp of gluten flour. Red whole wheat and good AP flour both have adequate gluten formation capability.

2. If you want  more of a no knead technique (I don't think this loaf is capable of being no knead if you want any bread-like crumb), I think you have to do at least 3-5 stretch and folds. Whole wheat needs to be well hydrated and doing S&F exposes more particulate to water for eventual absorption. Any dough needs well developed gluten to support a high level of fruit and seeds but esp if it has WW in it.

3. It needs more hydration. The dough needs to start out definitely sticky. The correct amount of liquid is that the dough starts out definitely sticky and would be messy to handmix but after sitting 1-24 hours, it becomes tacky like post it note -touch brings no dough adhering to the finger.

4.The yeast needs to be increased to at least 1 tsp and poss a little more.Osmotolerant yeast may work a bit better given the sugarienss of the fruit but try first with what you have on hand. The dough also needs to be chilled if you want it to sit for the length of time you are talking. The 1/2 tsp yeast is living out its life cycle and simply dying off. There are limits to trying to develop flavor using small amounts of yeast. Mebake is absolutely right. Either a much shorter room temp rest or a longer COLDER retard.

5. Flax seeds-try adding ground flax seeds-you will more easily digest and extract the nutrients you are going for and also it will provide some gel to contribute to the softness of the crumb. This may also increase the need for more liquid as ground flax is a thirsty ingredient.

6. Soak any dried fruit and the oats before adding. Use the soaking water as part of the liquid in the loaf or not-your choice. This will prevent the dried ingredients from robbing the crumb of moisture as it bakes and afterwards so the bread is less likely to become crumbly.

7.Develop a S&F method. I believe the method described in "Tartine" would work very well for this. Barbara Krauss recently did a demo video that is on TheFreshLoaf.She is making the all white but it would actually work very well for this bread.

8. I would consider reducing the amount of dried fruit a bit. You have about 4 1/2 c additives (fruit and seeds) and 4 1/4 c flour! Suggestion-1/4 c sunflower seeds,1/4 c oatmeal,1/4-1/2 c (at most) dried fruit. Keep the flax at 1/4 c flax meal(ground seeds) and soak all the dried fruit and oatmeal before adding.

I add cardamom and coriander to my bread and honey as I don't care for molasses. The toast perfumes the air every morning. Keep going-you have a good basis but need to refine  a bit both technique and ingredients. Failures can be delicious,too!


Marz's picture

Thanks you all! This is a college education in bread making & is making so much sense.

I am assuming S & F means soak and ferment?

Below are the adjustments I have made with your help.

+I have dropped the no-knead style for this bread. I'm going regular including putting into 2 loaf pans. Makes for a better crust for this bread.

+I have upped the flour (and may up it again to get 2 bigger loaves). They were a bit piddly with this amount of flour.

+I added more yeast and now with Clazar's input I may add more liquid. I've always been an "apx" liquid I do it by feel.

+I will also be soaking, fruit, rolled oats, and I like the idea of ground flax.

+I'm keeping the nuts and fruit the same for know as I love the chock full of stuff feel in this bread. 

I don't have a photo of the 2nd time thru...but know it was MUCH better. Once I get to the 3rd variaition I will post photos and recipe again.

You all are the best. And happily, spot on with your advice. You're saving & improving! one of my favorite recipes.



clazar123's picture

My apologies on using the abbreviation (S&F).

After watching the video below, read my reply again and see if "stretch and fold" makes more sense with what I said. It probably did not make much sense thinking "soak and ferment"

Take a look at the videos on this site and definitely review the Barbara Krauss video

Stretch and fold may open up many new ideas for you!

I assumed this recipe was for 1 loaf. I always think about  3 c flour per 1 loaf so I'm not surprised it made 2 small loaves.

At some point you may want to start weighing ingredients as it helps to make a more consistent product and it is easier to make a bigger amount of dough or even a lesser amount without losing the characterisitcs. But that may be another topic and another learning curve (tho not a hard one) 

Marz's picture

Thanks! all who offered help and insights. I have tweaked the recipe (see below) and had success (see photo). I am still going to play with the recipe some.... but I am happy that I have the basic recipe down so its pretty as well as yummy and not quite such a solid lump of yum.

The recipe where it stands today:

Zephyr Bread                                                                                                                             May 5, 2013 version

Day before:


¼ cup of rolled oats

¼ cup of flax seeds

½ cup of raisins

½ cup of water

Mix together in small bowl, cover and set aside.



                  1 ½  cup whole wheat flour

                  1/3 tsp instant yeast

                  1 1/4  cup water

Day before mix up polish cover bowl with plastic and let it sit at room temp for 2-4 hours-till it begins to bubble then put into refir, till the next day. Next Day:

The remove Poolish 1 hour before using to warm up.


            Dry Ingredients

                  4 cups white bread flour

                  2 Tbsp gluten flour

                  1 1/2 tsp salt

Stir together dry ingredients in big KitchenAid mixing bowl


Wet ingredients

                  ¾ cup +/- Warm milk                                                     

                  2   tsp yeast –active dry

                  50 grams of honey   or   45 grams Molasses  or    25 grams honey + 25 grams molasses

                  1 Tbsp oil

 Add the soaker + wet ingredients to the poolish and mix together, then add to dry mixture and mix until the dough forms a smooth ball, adding more water or flour as needed. 4+ minutes. Dough should be thoroughly kneaded and be able to pass the windowpane test.


Move dough to counter top and knead apx 5-10 min by hand, kneading in the dates & sunflower seed a bit at a time. It should be tacky but not sticky.

                  1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds

                  3/4 cup diced dates, apricots,  or  cranberries                                                                       



First rise:

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer oiled dough to it. Cover with plastic wrap & let rise till doubled or 2 hours…


Shape and 2nd Rise”

Divide dough into 2 parts and shape for two 4 ½’” x 8” loaf pans (or shape the dough into round boule), spray with oil, cover with plastic wrap. Proof for 90 min or until dough nearly doubles.

Cover with plastic wrap and set in warm (70°-75°) spot for 90 minutes.



Preheat oven to 350°  Bake loaves for about 30 min, rotate 180° and continue baking 15-30 min or until interior is 185°-190°. Thump to see if it makes a hollow sound.


Brush warm tops with butter, after bread is out of oven.



The result:



dabrownman's picture

The first one had a rich, dark color from the molasses and, to me looks better color wise, than the 2nd batch that rose so well.  Id' go for a mix of both color and rise before calling it quits on development of this bread.  Or was it that the photography made the two breads look so different?

Happy baking

clazar123's picture

They look very nice! How did they taste?

Marz's picture

They  tasted great! And I did go with honey and cardamon.

Great additions! I forgot to put the cardamon on the recipe but it was IN the bread.8-) M
Marz's picture

The photos were accurate. Next time 1/2 honey & 1/2 molasses. I too like the darker color. A bread recipe is never finalized...I'm always tweaking it.